With the somewhat startling development that the South Carolina and Georgia match-up will be a game between two top 25 teams, it puts a new wrinkle into the importance of the game. Everyone has highlighted this game as a game that could go a long way toward deciding the SEC East.
South Carolina and Georgia seems to always be a tough, close game. It's not a marquee rivalry, but it is a rivalry nonetheless. It's not a rivalry bred on pure hatred and disdain, more a rivalry on competitiveness. One team trying to maintain a dominance, another still clawing and fighting to make their name.
South Carolina and Georgia will play in the early game this weekend, not the prime time slot a game with this many implications, this early, would expect to be played. There are several big names playing this weekend, though there are few in conference games.
Either way, both the Dawgs and the Gamecocks will show up ready to play. Coming off of an impressive week one showing against Southern Miss, the atmosphere of Williams Brice Stadium may be as loud and as lively as it was around this time in 2009 when number four Ole Miss rolled into Columbia.
This is no doubt a big game with a big fight feel. More eyes than usual may be on Columbia, South Carolina this weekend. One thing is for certain, these five Gamecocks must give their best for the Gamecocks to walk away victorious, climb in the rankings and move one step closer to meeting expectations.
Garcia the gunslinger Gamecock quarterback put in maybe the best performance of his barely three year old career against Southern Miss in the season opener. This Saturday, he isn't playing Southern Miss. He's playing Georgia. Last year he gave his all against Georgia and the Gamecocks nearly left Athens victorious.
That was an entirely different Stephen Garcia. This Stephen Garcia is more focused, more determined and more mature. He has a grip on his team. He leads them, and he must continue to do so on Saturday afternoon against the Bulldogs.
Garcia doesn't necessarily have to have a record breaking performance. He simply has to have a mistake free, or close to mistake free performance. As has been discussed before he must make the most of each play, and slow, or speed up the tempo of the game suit the Gamecocks.
Last season the Gamecocks suffered an embarrassing loss against the Huskies of UConn. After that game an emotional Stephen Garcia made it known that he wasn't proud of what had happened, and he wanted to do something about it. Each week is a chance to do that, and this week is as good a place to start as any.
One of South Carolina's most talked about weapons is Alshon Jeffery. He is also one of the Gamecocks who must shine against Georgia for South Carolina to be victorious. There are expectations of Alshon Jeffery that rival those of Sidney Rice, Sterling Sharpe and Robert Brooks. He's expected to be one of the greats to wear the garnet and black. He may be.
One of the few players Steve Spurrier took the time to praise at any time last season, opposing defenses know that Jeffery is going to get the ball. They know they have to stop him. As he has continued to prove since October of 2009, that isn't as easy as opponents would like it to be.
Just like Stephen Garcia, Alshon doesn't have to have a record breaking performance. Another 100 yard game would certainly help, but he will be covered, and making the most out of each catch will be key. Alshon will need to get the all important YAC (yards after catch) for the Gamecocks to get an incredibly important early win.
For the second week in a row the Gamecocks top two running backs and running game must shine. The running game was superb in the first week. This is where consistency becomes a must. For South Carolina to have a chance this Saturday Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles must get the job done on the ground, and catching passes out of the backfield.
Big chunks of yardage are always great to see from running backs, but three and four yard games are the important ones. The Gamecocks must be able to control the clock and the tempo, and the third down situation. The running game will play a large part in all of those.
It is completely fair to say that Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles have a great deal of pressure, and eyes on them this Saturday. This is Lattimore's first big game, and Miles has had his fair share, but with the expectations for the season this, and each game following may be his biggest game as well.
Stephon Gilmore is another player who will consistently be a Gamecock who must perform to give South Carolina a better chance to win. Gilmore continues to prove he is one of the better players in the nation, at multiple positions. It is entirely possible that Gilmore may play more than corner this weekend, but corner is where he must step up.
Georgia's redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray impressed last week against Louisiana-Lafayette and looks to continue. The Bulldogs will be without wide receiver A.J. Green, but Gilmore, and the other defensive backs will have to do their best to contain the young star from Georgia.
Gilmore has an eye for the ball, and a seemingly innate ability to be in the right place at the right time. That must continue for Gilmore to give the Gamecocks the best shot at the win. Be it breaking up passes, intercepting them, making a tackle, or just disrupting a play Stephon Gilmore needs to show up, and show up big this Saturday.
The entire defense must step up, but the linebackers have a key role this week. Playing linebacker generally means that you're versatile. That versatility will be tested by Georgia. The linebackers as a unit will have to be everywhere, sometimes at once to contain the Bulldogs and make the Gamecocks successful.
Be it blitzing, containing, dropping into coverage or staying at home and making tackles each and every linebacker, and the spur, who step on the field will have a huge role in the way the game unravels. The Gamecocks defense will likely do what they can to get the crowd involved, and get into the head of Aaron Murray.
Getting into the heads of the Georgia offense is important, but so is getting into the backfield and ending the play early. Josh Dickerson, Rodney Paulk, Tony Straughter and Quin Smith must all give their best effort in every play they participate in.